Health insurance is an absolute necessity for students, yet a surprising number of students, both studying medicine and other fields, rely on their university’s student health care clinic rather than paying for insurance.

In short, student health clinics suck. They really don’t provide the coverage you need while at school.

Compare student health insurance rates and benefits

Rates and benefits can vary widely across different insurance providers. You need to comparison shop for insurance – just like you would for anything else. Don’t be shy about comparing insurance plans and companies – information is the key to proper coverage. Here’s a short list of some of the questions you should ask after you get your free health insurance quotes:

  • What is the maximum I would be covered for?
  • What is the deductible?
  • How much will this cost – and how does the cost change with different deductibles?
  • What am I not covered for (for example, some insurance plans don’t cover varsity or even intramural sports injuries)?
  • Are there restrictions on which physicians I can use?
  • Do I need a referral to see a specialist?
  • What if I get sick or hurt while I’m traveling?
  • Do I need pre-approval from the insurance company before I can go see a health-care provider?
  • Am I covered as a graduate student, or is the restricted to undergrads?
  • Does it provide for well-visits or healthy patient visits to a physician?

All providers and insurers are bound to HIPAA regulations that cover your privacy, but make sure they also have good customer support, with easily located contact information and toll-free telephone numbers.

These are the basics – but don’t limit yourself to these questions.

Why student health insurance is a must

You should have a health insurance plan separate from the basic student clinic options. You’re not likely to catch kleptomania from your clients in law school. In medical school, though, you are exposed almost daily to TB, HIV, and a host of other infectious diseases. You don’t want to rely on the student clinic nurse to work up that differential diagnosis.

Also, a student insurance health plan is usually required if you’re going to do a sub-internship away from your medical school.

What about professional courtesy in deductibles?

Professional courtesy by a physician is often extended to medical students. Unfortunately this doesn’t usually cover the deductible – and you can’t count on it. So in choosing a health plan, make sure the deductible is something you can live with.

How to find student health insurance

Several insurance providers cater to students (istudentinsurance, for example); and college student health insurance programs are available in all states from a variety of providers. You should definitely shop around at more than one provider – prices and coverage can vary tremendously. If you’ve recently graduated, or intend to graduate in the near future, you should purchase individual medical insurance rather than student insurance.

Insurance for travel abroad

If you intend to leave the US (or alternatively, come to the US) while you’re a student, you’ll need additional health insurance. Several companies specialize in travel medical insurance and international health insurance for students. The most prominent is International Student Insurance.

Health insurance coverage also varies by state, for example, CA health insurance options differ substantially from those found in Texas or Georgia.

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